Diane (Joan Collins) bursts into a Hong Kong governor's office and demands to see the man in charge, for she has some very important information about the mysterious spacecraft orbiting the world which the West believe to be hailing from the Soviet Union, except the radio messages they are picking up sound as if they are Americans up there. Diane has news for the authorities: it's not Russian or American, it's from a sinister organisation known as Echelon 3, and they plan to hold the world to ransom. She begins to tell all, but how does this link into two con artists central to the tale?
Those con artists being Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, under the character names Harry Turner and Chester Babcock, for this, the last hurrah of the Road series. Their previous instalment had been around ten years before with Road to Bali, which many had thought a perfectly fine way to finish, but the stars were keen to work with each other one more time, and thus seasoned comedy writers Norman Panama and Melvin Frank came up with a plot apparently designed to rival the new James Bond movie, Dr. No, which opened the same year, making this one of the quickest off the mark for a spoof genre which practically became an industry on its own in the sixties.
When British science fiction movies are mentioned, Road to Hong Kong doesn't often come up in conversation, but that's where this was made nevertheless, and it had space rockets and the like in it, so it did indeed count. To make this seem more of a lark, a raft of star cameos were included as if this were still the good old days of Bob and Bing's heyday, although a concession to the changing times was made when Peter Sellers showed up to do his funny Indian accent in one scene as a doctor, evidently using this as a bridge between The Millionairess and The Party. But what you might be considering was where Dorothy Lamour happened to be, as after all in the previous movies there had been a trio of stars.
And not to mention that Dorothy was far more age appropriate to being romanced by the oldsters than Joan Collins, here gamely yet over-earnestly playing the love interest but never convincing as the ideal foil to the duo's antics. Given that Lamour appeared in the last fifteen minutes and looked great, it was even more confounding that she should have been relegated to this - and by all accounts she had to fight to be in the film that long - but it was nice to see her and for that short passage of time some of the former magic was in evidence. Elsewhere, everyone tried hard but it was clear things had moved on, and if they were trying to capture the audience who were now enjoying the Road pictures on television this came up wanting.
Flashbacks see Harry and Chester conducting a typically harebrained scheme where they plan to send a man into space in India, but it predictably goes wrong and Chester loses his memory. To get it back they have to reach, no, not Hong Kong but Tibet, where he is cured with such skill that he attains a photographic memory, so when he is mistakenly passed some top secret rocket papers by Diane in the airport he memorises them, then winds up the sole source of the information when the papers are destroyed. The fact that this hinged on a tremendous mental faculty indicated the filmmakers were keen to show that the boys still had whatever it was that made them popular in the first place and could keep up with whatever young upstarts were emerging in the Swinging Sixties, but while there was the odd funny line and a half decent song and dance number, otherwise it was all rather creaky, especially in the would-be setpieces. The Road to the Fountain of Youth was never made, so while this did not embarrass the stars, it did show how difficult it was to reclaim past glories. Music by Robert Farnon.